Building a Studio

Karen and I recently moved to a new house. It’s quite a bit larger overall than our old place… there’s more room for our teenage son, a more-isolated space for Karen’s work (she delivers web-based training, so things have to be quiet). And for me… a freestanding, 2-car garage.

My soon-to-be studio space

This is going to become my all-purpose space… my office, certainly, as well as equipment storage and a bench for electronics fabrication and repairs. But primarily, this space will be my studio, though it won’t have a separate control room. Instead, tracking and mixing will be done in the same area to capitalize on the relatively small footprint (about 300 square feet). We did a lot of work this way at my old studio.

It’s been awhile, but this isn’t the first studio I’ve built. Robert and I built the first OnLine Audio location in Charleston, SC, rebuilding two front rooms of his house into a studio and control room. We started with a 1/2″ 8-track, and then quickly went up to a 1″ 16 track recorder. When we bought the 24 track, we moved to a large space on East Bay St in an old cigar factory that had been converted into a small business development center. The other tenants hated it when we fired up a big stack of Marshalls, but that usually occurred after regular business hours. Robert and I designed and built the control room, iso booth, and large studio room, and we put the 16 track and mixer into a “B” room.

The interior of the studio looked like this when I started.

Construction has been going on for about six weeks now. The old “ceiling” has been removed, exposing the heart pine beams. The underside of the roof was layered with Quiet Brace (tarboard), and drywall has been applied to about 75% of the roof joists. I’m exposing the old beams and installing a vaulted ceiling. It’s a pain in the ass, but it will add a lot of cubic footage to the space… and it should look really classy besides.

Electrical work was finally completed last week… I went through five different electricians before somebody finally showed up to do the work. But I’ve now got a separate 50-amp service line for the audio and lighting, with a dedicated ground. I’ve installed new outlets along all of the walls, and now the insulation and drywall are going up. Garage doors were removed and replaced with an insulated double door and insulated stud wall to reduce sound transmission in both directions. I still have a lot of acoustical leaks to plug, but since it’s a cinderblock building, the space is already relatively quiet.

The studio as of January 4th, 2012… it’s a construction site minus the workers. Things are progressing, despite the mess.

I’ll be posting more photos as work progresses. Right now, everything’s a big mess. Work remaining to do… install blown insulation in the ceiling and seal up the sheetrock, install sheetrock and insulation on 2 more walls, insulate and sheetrock the gable ends. Tape, mud, and sand all the joints. Seal up & insulate the doors, install another window, add trim. Paint, Install the floor, build the workbench and gear storage racks. Then I can start looking at studio furniture and consider the purchase of a larger mixer… ideally, something like a Soundcraft 600… but not as big as the TS12 we had at OnLine Audio. I figure it’ll be a month longer at a bare minimum, but probably 2 more month’s work before I can start moving equipment in.

My studio will have digital capability, but the plan is to use an analog signal path for mixdown as much as possible. Plus I’ve got a design in my head for an old-school plate reverb that I’m dying to try.

Building a studio in today’s economy doesn’t seem like a good idea, but it’s about the only way that one can do studio work anymore. There are very, very few “studio jobs” left as more places close down. Several other studios exist here in Chattanooga, ( one less than a block away) plus Nashville is less than two hour’s drive from here. So I won’t be taking out any loans or installing a Neve. But I feel quite certain that I can bring some rather unique skills to the party, and that I can develop some markets for my little studio. More info will be posted as it develops.

One response to “Building a Studio

  1. Wow! Looking good, man. Mudding, taping, and sanding are always things to look forward to (ugh), but it’ll be well worth the effort when you’re done. I dream of doing this on my property one day, but right now i have to be content with my project studio set-up in the back spare room. I did build an isolation booth in it a few years back. It serves it’s purpose for a one-man band. Good luck with everything, and keep us updated!
    – Billy Marsh

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